October 16, 2013
Using hand sanitizer and following regular hand-washing practices can reduce the number of days absent from school, according to recent study findings published in The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
The randomized controlled, open-label study included 1,341 children aged 4 to 12 years. Participants were assigned to either the intervention group (hand-washing and hand sanitizer) or the control group (hand-washing). Days absent because of gastrointestinal conditions were evaluated between the two groups.
Researchers found that there was a 36% lower risk of days absent due to acute gastroenteritis in the intervention group compared with the control group (incidence rate ratio [IRR]=0.64; 95% CI, 0.52-0.78) and fewer absences of 0.13 per child for the academic year (P<.001).
There were 725 missed school days due to acute gastroenteritis. However, the percentage of days missed were lower in the intervention group (0.31%; 95% CI, 0.28-0.35) compared with the control group (0.44%; 95% CI, 0.40-0.48).
“In conclusion, our study demonstrates that specific educational efforts on sanitation, complemented by regular supervision of hand-washing and the availability of soap and hand sanitizers, are effective measures to reduce the days absent and the number of school absenteeism cases due to [acute gastroenteritis],” the researchers wrote.
“Schools should consider incorporating these measures (including hydroalcoholic gel dispensers in the classrooms) to reduce absenteeism due to common infectious illnesses.”